Digital technologies are disrupting once-established industries with seemingly untouchable models.
From media, entertainment and publishing to healthcare to even stalwart financial institutions, technology is changing how we work, travel, communicate - and purchase.
Right now, fashion is experiencing its own digital revolution.
The advent of sophisticated consumer technologies is driving unprecedented changes in customer behaviour, changes that are prompting pioneering brands to investigate how to meet the challenges of these new behaviours.
New platforms and technologies are being explored as a crucial part of the response to these challenges, but harnessing digital disruption goes deeper than tech.
We’re talking about having the foresight and the vision to truly put the customer at the heart of the fashion buying experience in a new way and the courage to embrace the internal cultural shift that might require.
If you’re under pressure to find and connect with your consumers on a deeper level, and we know you are, we must begin by understanding the drivers of change and their most urgent areas of impact.
What’s Driving Digital Disruption?
The Mobile Revolution
One of the main drivers of change may be in your pocket right now.
The proliferation of smartphones and mobile devices has transformed the trust relationship between consumers and brands.
Customers are able to find product information, read peer reviews and compare brands, all before their first interaction directly with you. Brands are no longer in control of the conversation.
74% of online consumers make purchasing decisions influenced by social media.
McKinsey, The State of Fashion 2018
Image-based, content-rich networks such as Instagram have tapped into a powerful desire in the connected consumer to create and drive trends, keep up with celebrities and influencers and share their own styles.
What's the Impact of the Connected Customer in Fashion?
The Customer Experience
The connected customer is accustomed to personalisation, to engaging, two-way communication and fast delivery. The fashion customer experience must match up.
Increasingly, fashion customers expect a seamless omni-channel experience, with the ability to move effortlessly between different touch points at their leisure, with data connected across channels.
This seamless experience must not come at a compromise. Expectation is higher than ever.
Consumers are increasingly seeking to collaborate with fashion brands, rather than have their personal style dictated to. Early adoption of customisation tools to empower customers to create bespoke pieces is one powerful way we’re helping brands to engage at a deeper level.
Online retail is booming. Online retail sales are expected to continue to grow by almost 20% between 2018 and 2022 in the US alone, according to the US Census Bureau.
Online-only retailers are demonstrating the results of investing in engaging digital customer experiences, quick production and social engagement for more traditional luxury brands to take notes on.
Without embracing digital technologies and providing what customers want, fashion brands and retailers will continue to lose their share of the fashion market, which is estimated to reach $1.8 trillion by 2020.
Bell Ventures Insights, 'Unfashionably Late'
In our connected world, we are witnessing a new knowledge unfolding. As processes of manufacturing and distribution are no longer opaque to the inquisitive consumer, the pressure is building to make informed choices that display a customer’s ethics as well their fashion choices.
The environmental impact of current fashion production methods is one such consideration.
It’s an unpalatable but increasingly visible truth that current mass production processes create waste and inefficiencies that have a tangible impact on the environment.
The apparel industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions and remains the second largest industrial polluter, second only to oil.
Making Climate Change Fashionable - The Garment Industry Takes On Global Warming, Forbes
Once the preserve of niche brands, sustainability and environmental responsibility are moving up the agenda for more traditional brands, as consumer consciousness continues to grow.
A resurgence in shopping local is more than a display of pride or a signifier of quality. Consumers are increasingly interested in the origin of their apparel for social responsibility as well as sustainability.
Working conditions can vary vastly across the globe, with the pressure for ever decreasing costs of production. Ethiopia as the new Eldorado for the fashion supply chain is symptomatic of this with workers paid half the wage received in Bangladesh, the previous lowest paid workforce, infamous for a multitude of workers’ rights abuses.
Meanwhile, the rise of the connected customer has led to an expectation for fast delivery and the ‘see now, buy now’ trend as customers become familiar with next season runway styles so far in advance that confusion and fatigue surface by the time such garments make the rails.
Reducing environmental impact, ensuring social responsibility, creating exciting digital experiences and moving from a mass production model driven by seasonality, to a more ‘see now, buy now’ approach is complex.
The logistics, platforms and technologies themselves are dating quicker than fashion trends and to make changes to the current supply chain model takes commitment, investment and a longer-term view than this year’s profit margins.
How Can Brands Respond?
These are complex problems but at Unmade we’re passionate about not losing sight of what sits at the heart of them - the customer.
Brands must be willing to adopt a customer-centric approach that truly desires to engage customers at a deeper level, and leverage the emerging technologies that can establish a more agile supply chain, to deliver a frictionless customer experience.